Traveler Contractor Receives Prison Sentence For 88 Felony Counts
HAYWARD — A California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation that spans more than two years culminated in the sentencing of a Traveler contractor who pleaded no contest to 88 felony counts against victims from throughout the Bay Area. The felony charges include residential burglary, elder theft, and conspiracy.
William MacMillan Donohue was sentenced on December 18 in Alameda County Superior Court to a three-year state prison sentence and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $157,181 to his victims in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Solano, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Yolo, Stanislaus, Riverside, and Alameda Counties.
Donohue and a companion targeted elderly persons and defrauded them of more than $220,000 between December 1999 and December 2000.
In one case, Donohue and his companion contacted a 75-year-old widow, and on five separate occasions contracted to apply a roof sealant and make roof repairs for a total cost of $25,700. An industry expert found no evidence that any useful or necessary work was done and discovered that the sprayed-on sealant has no preserving effect, and, in fact, will void the manufacturer's product warranty and cause the roof shingles to deteriorate prematurely. Deputy Attorney General Keith Lyon called the material "snake oil, with absolutely no beneficial effects."
A Traveler is a transient home repair contractor who perpetrates scams and commits fraud, often against elderly homeowners. Travelers--often members of extended families--move from town to town scamming consumers. They typically knock on a business or homeowner's door and offer to perform work with materials they claim are left over from another job. After a deal is struck the Travelers perform substandard, useless, or sometimes destructive work. They quickly move on, often before the homeowners know they've been defrauded, and are difficult to find
The CSLB warns elderly homeowners to check with a friend or relative before signing a contract and to be wary of solicitors who create a false sense of urgency and pressure them into agreeing to home improvement work.
Homeowners should follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the pocket license
- Check the contractor's license on the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov
- Be wary of door-to-door solicitations
- Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision about hiring a contractor
- Get at least three bids and check references
- Get a written contract
- Ask a friend or relative to review the contract before signing it
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
- Don't pay cash and don't let payments get ahead of the work
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses and regulates the 278,000 building contractors in the state. The CSLB investigates approximately 25,000 complaints against contractors every year.
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